In March 2016 we finally see the launch of the UltraHD Blu-ray player format with a $400 player from Samsung and titles from many studios. These UltraHD discs will likely be the best sources of UltraHD content at home. This new format offers 10-bits per pixel instead of the 8-bits of Blu-ray for better gradients and less banding, wider color gamuts that are closer to what you see in the movie theater, high dynamic range with brighter highlights that better represent real life, and better compression for a sharper image. Overall the format is a big step-up from Blu-ray which is the best physical media format available.
There are some things to look out for, though. One main point of contention is that many movies aren’t mastered in 4K for the theater, but have their master done at 2K resolution. What this means can differ from title to title. Some movies, like Mad Max: Fury Road, are shot at 2.8K resolution on an Arri Alexa camera, and then have their special effects done at 2K resolution. So this title on UltraHD Blu-ray will benefit from more bits-per-pixel, wider color gamuts, better compression, and possibly high dynamic range. However it is upscaled to 4K as it was never shot in 4K.
For a title like The Martian, it was shot in 4K but the final master is at 2K resolution so all the visual effects are likely that resolution. For the UltraHD Blu-ray, it looks like they are going back to the 4K master for creating the HDR effects but the special effects will still be 2K. So this title will have all the real world content in true 4K resolution, but the visual effects done at 2K resolution.
Finally we have Sicario, which is shot in 4K and has a 4K master. With far fewer special effects shots, it didn’t need to go down to 2K resolution so we will get true 4K all the way through.
The key thing is that these films will almost certainly look better on UltraHD Blu-ray than on traditional Blu-ray. They’ll have a wider color gamut to use, highlights that are spectacular, and less compression. However only some might take full advantage of the UltraHD resolution offered. We are going to attempt to keep track of this and update a chart with all the details on the announced titles. This way if you only want true 4K films, you can find those. If you just want to know what the original format is you can also find that, but this way you aren’t going into a purchase without being sure of what you are getting.
You will also need a TV that is an UltraHD Premium model to take full advantage of these features. If you simply have a 4K TV from a year or two ago, it might not support the wider color gamuts and high dynamic range features that UltraHD Blu-ray can offer. The TV will need to support HDMI 2.0a to understand the HDR content, and will need HDCP 2.2 copy protection to pass the image. If you are unsure if your TV supports this then you should check your manual or see if there is a firmware update available for it that might help. Most high-end TVs this year are UltraHD Premium certified, but it isn’t a guarantee.
You can also find the database in the Main Menu under Guides. It will be continually updated as we get more information from the studios on the features available in each title.